Within the framework of the dissertation project, a comprehensive spatial and chronologically broad-spread ceramic material will be used to examine the extent to which conclusions on the change, both of manufacturing techniques, manufacturing intentions, the raw materials used, and distribution patterns of technologies in a diachronic perspective are possible using the portable energy-dispersive X-ray fluorescence analysis (p-ED-XRF) and by which methods they have to be supplemented if necessary.


The aim of the planned work is to find appropriate measuring parameters for the application of the p-ED-XRF using ceramics of a survey carried out in Syria, and to compare it with the informational value of “conventional” examination methods.

Basically, it should be clarified to what extent comprehensive survey ceramic complexes can be differentiated using the p-ED-XRF and the incorporation of technological characteristics in order to be able to make conclusions on the development of production and distribution systems of ancient societies.

In order to determine whether the p-ED-XRF is suitable as a method for the chemical differentiation of the ceramics in the investigation area and thus for the identification of locally produced fabrics, a random sample was selected which spatially and chronologically represents the entire work area. The ceramic fragments were analyzed using the p-ED-XRF as well as with the more accurate wavelength-dispersive XRF and the obtained data on the element content were evaluated statistically. Therefore, the p-ED-XRF could be evaluated with regard to the determination of the optimal measurement duration, the effects of sample preparation and the representativeness of individual measurements and the measurement precision. As a result, it was found that the ceramic material can be chemically differentiated only relatively roughly, which could most probably explained by the geological conditions in the middle Euphrates Valley. The lower accuracy of the p-ED-XRF compared to established laboratory methods also confounds that pattern.

After this primary methodological approach was evaluated and it was found that this alone is improper to answer the question of the project satisfactorily, the focus was now particularly on the detailed recording of the technological characteristics of the ceramics in a database and the statistical evaluation to investigate the morphological, technological and metric variability of the complex. Material from four time slices (Ubaid to Middle Bronze Age) was chosen to compare these data both synchronously and diachronically. With the recorded data on the ceramics of the first two time slices, first evaluation strategies could now be developed, which are still being further developed.


First results will be published in an article soon: Antonia Hofmann: Evaluation and calibration of the p-ED-XRF analyser “Tracer” (Co. Bruker) for classifying pottery from the middle Euphrates in comparison with WD-XRF-results. In: Application of portable energy-dispersive x-ray-fluorescence to the analysis of archaeological ceramics, TOPOI. Berlin Studies of the Ancient World.

This Ph.D. thesis is being written within the program Material Cultures and Object Studies (MaCOS) of the Berlin Graduate School of Ancient Studies (BerGSAS).